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easy peasy lunch

whole wheat spaghetti with peas and almonds
so this is basically the easiest pasta dish you can make- one pot, four ingredients, under 15 minutes. i like to make this on days like today where i have and early lunch at home before work and want some leftovers to take with me for a snack since i'll be working until after dinner time. all of the ingredients can be subbed with other pastas/legumes/nuts/oils, so it's an easy one to make with whatever you have on hand. i was first introduced to the fantastic pasta-nut combo as a kid, when i used to spend a lot of time at my best friend kini's house. her parents made the most delicious dinners- i can still taste her dad's home-made bread, the salad dressing that i used to be allowed to dip my fingers in after all the salad was gone, and the sweet walnut whole wheat spaghetti her mom used to make. she would grind up walnuts and a bit of sugar in the food processor and toss that into spaghetti. the heat of the pasta would melt the sugar and help the walnuts stick to the pasta. yum! this recipe takes that idea and adapts it for spring, taking out the sugar to make it a little lighter, and adding peas for green freshness. all of the ingredients are high in protein and the whole wheat pasta and nuts are complex carbs, so this is a good meal to keep you fueled for a long time. 

whole wheat spaghetti with peas and almonds
2 portions whole wheat spaghetti (or pasta of your choice)
1 cup green peas (i used frozen, but fresh would be even better)
1 cup raw almonds (or pistachios or walnuts...)
1 teaspoon walnut oil (you could sub another nut or olive oil)

- cook pasta according to directions on the box.

- while the pasta cooks use a food processor to grind almonds until they become a coarse meal (you want them to look kind of sandy, with a few coarse chunks)

- about a minute before pasta is done turn off heat and add your frozen peas to the pot. let sit for 1-2 min and then use the lid of your pot to drain the pasta water (it's fine to leave a tiny bit of the starchy water in the pot- this will help your ingredients stick together).

- add almond meal and oil to the pot and stir to evenly distribute. salt to taste. voila! wasn't that easy?


chinese bbq seitan taste test!

home made seitan with home made bbq sauce (top)
and bbq spice mix with red no. 3 (bottom).
i've been dying to make seitan again, and since it turned out so well last time, i wanted to make it the star of the meal! enter the chinese bbq spice packet in my husband's stocking this past xmas. it's been calling to me in my dreams from inside our cabinet ever since and i've been waiting and waiting for the right time to make it- this was it! but after reading through the ingredients and instructions i realized that the dye they use to get it that red/pink color (red no. 3) was going to stain my hands for a few days if i didn't wear gloves...? did i really want us to eat that? i decided to make my own bbq sauce and see if i couldn't come up with something that would satisfy my craving for the bbq ribs i remember from my childhood trips to chinatown. after our side-by-side comparison, my home-made bbq seitan won out! the spice mix was too sweet (the first ingredient was sugar) and didn't have the depth of flavor i was looking for, plus our lips and tongues were tinted red from the dye! the bbq marinade recipe below was had a nice balance of sweet-to-savory, the ginger gave it a fresh zing of spice, and even though it didn't taste "just like when i was a kid", i would definitely make it again.

chinese bbq seitan
(seitan adapted from looking closely's "faux boeuf")
dry ingredients:
2 cups wheat gluten
1 teaspoon herbes de provence
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon chinese five spice powder
wet ingredients:
1 1/4 cups veggie broth
2 tablespoons tamari
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 of an onion + 4 cloves of garlic, pulsed in the food processor or blender with 1/2 cup water

cooking liquid
6 cups veggie broth
1/4 cup tamari
2 tablespoons molasses

chinese bbq marinade (adapted from
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons sherry or madeira
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 inch fresh ginger, crushed

optional step: watch an awesome episode of ST:DS9
while you prepare this feast!
- mix cooking liquid ingredients in a large stock pot and bring to a simmer while you prepare your seitan.

- in a large bowl combine dry seitan ingredients. combine wet seitan ingredients in a smaller bowl. using a wooden spoon mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. this should happen pretty quickly as you don't want to over-mix your seitan (causing it to become rubbery)- just mix enough to evenly incorporate the wet and dry mixtures. let your seitan rest 10-15 minutes.

- while your seitan rests prepare your bbq sauce: simply mix all ingredients together until well blended.

your seitan will swell up as it cooks-
don't worry, it will shrink once it's cooked through.
- at this point you can divide your seitan as you see fit (i cut mine in half for the taste test) or you can cook it whole and slice it later. carefully drop your pieces of seitan into the stock and let simmer for about an hour (you want to avoid boiling stock in order to keep your seitan tender). remove seitan and let rest on a cutting board with a moat or in a shallow bowl for 5-10 min to cool and allow excess stock to drain.

- once your seitan is cool give it a gentle squeeze (you want it as dry as possible so it will soak up lots of yummy marinade) and allow it to marinate in the bbq sauce for 3+ hours (you could even leave it overnight in the fridge).

- at this point you could grill, pan-fry, or even bake it in a covered dish. i chose to pan fry- the maple syrup in the bbq sauce will give it a nice, crispy caramelization around the edges- yum!

this recipe made way more than enough for our dinner, here are some ideas for leftovers:
• bbq sandwich with crispy lettuce, tomatoes, and cilantro (or even lettuce wraps)
• add strips of bbq seitan to a soba noodle/ramen soup
• bbq seitan & pineapple fried rice!
• serve with a cucumber-shredded carrot-scallion salad (use rice wine vinegar)

final step: watch another episode!